50 people up a mountain wearing bobble hats and thermals… sounds like a perfect wedding. And it was.
Love and tax
When we decided to get married we had racked up 10 years together already. We’d travelled around the world, bought houses and cars, had kids… we weren’t just starting our lives together, we were well and truly down the road.
It kind of felt like we’d missed the marriage boat and that it didn’t really matter. In fact we often ended up discussing it as an option for reducing paperwork and saving money – did you know that you have fewer rights if you’re living together than if you’re married? A common-law spouse has no legal recognition, which is mainly only important if one of you pops your clogs or decides to run off and abandon the family. You can get round most of the trickiness by filling in forms but marriage is a simpler option. Oh the romance!
The good news is that it wasn’t just about tax implications and house ownership – we are very happy together and at every wedding we went to, usually ended up drunkenly chatting about how we would (or wouldn’t!) do ours. The whole big dress and sit-down dinner never appealed, but neither did a registry office followed by a humanist ‘pretend wedding’, so when we heard about two friends who had legally got married up a mountain in Scotland as the rules were different, we knew we had found a way to do it our way.
A hike with a legal interlude
We booked the same humanist celebrant – Penelope – that our friends had used and chose the same mountain (well, did we really need to do all the research when it was tried and tested already?!). A quick recce in January confirmed it was indeed beautiful, do-able and close enough to Ullapool for people to find accommodation, so we told all our pals that they were welcome to join us in the Highlands for a walk, marriage and post-walk pint and then sat back confident that only a handful of people would come.
We got that wrong; it turns out people like a unique wedding!
50 guests…. uh oh!
With more guests than we had imagined there were a few more logistics. You can’t just rock up with 25 cars in the Stac Pollaidh car park and then take 50 people into a bar and hope to be able to all order food. We decided that it would be less stressful to take over somewhere, but when we started enquiring you could almost hear the shift into ‘wedding mode’ – it was all big rooms with minimum numbers, flowers and set menus.
In the end we had a chat with the Frigate in Ullapool and they offered us a buffet that would cater for oyster lovers (him), cheese lovers (me), pudding lovers (the kids) and vegan salad lovers (well we are from Brighton after all!). They did an amazing job – even decorating the venue for us, which we were not expecting.
Anyway, I seem to be skipping the actual wedding bit so….
The actual wedding bit.
We wanted a low-key wedding on a mountain that was a celebration of us and the kids. When we spoke to Penelope we felt as if she understood this completely. Unlike the legal stuff you have to say in England or Wales, we could pretty much say what we wanted in Scotland so Penelope helped us craft a ceremony that was entirely personalised – a mix of our words and Scottish traditions that she felt we might enjoy.
We had told our guests it would take an hour to get to the spot we wanted to get married and to dress up warm – the ‘men’ would go first and hide little painted stones for the kids to find on their way up, as well as leave a red ribbon at the forked path so people would know which way to go. He would find a spot and when you reached him, you could picnic and wait for the rest of the party.
The best laid plans of mice and men…
The kids went before the boys arrived and so there were no stones or sweets to find. The red ribbon wasn’t very clear and so a few people went the wrong way, including our pregnant friend who had to then go off-piste across the mountain to get back on track (passing an adder!). The path was much steeper and longer than we had remembered, which meant for a slower and more challenging climb (perhaps we shouldn’t have based our timings on the speed of Soren. He may be 4 but he is a mountain goat in boy form!) and those thermals that we were all wearing – aaaggghhhh it was boiling hot! The good news was that the sunny weather meant the views were amazing…. until we reached my husband-to-be’s chosen spot – in thick mist??!!!
Twas meant to be
Dehydrated and sweaty, we all arrived in the clouds and Penelope kicked off proceedings as everyone got off their face on a combo of Bryony’s sugary tablet and the copious amount of whisky being passed around. It was amazing though – we talked about why we love Scotland, why we chose to get married (I didn’t mention tax implications!) and our plans for the future with the boys. We were both focused on the two kids beaming down at us as Penelope spoke – particularly as Kit had been a bit anxious about it all. It was more special and meaningful than I had ever imagined it would be. The clouds even cleared and we had that gorgeous backdrop we had hoped for.
We drank from the quaitch – a two handed cup filled with even more whisky – to toast our past, present and future together, swapped rings (carefully brought to us by the kids), did a bit of ‘accepting each other’ in front of witnesses and sealed the deal with a kiss. Yay! We then passed around more whisky and apple cake (a nod by Lou to my dad, a fond cake-lover!) and disbanded – those that wanted to hike to the top went one way, those that didn’t went back down. A perfect, no-frills wedding in my bobble hat and thermal leggings!
Let’s get the party started!
There was space in the Frigate for music – thanks Ben with his ipod and Jon with his guitar – and speeches as well. In the true spirit of stealing other people’s wedding ideas, we took the concept of a ‘Master of Ceremonies’ from our Swedish friend. Rather than the usual list, anyone who wanted to raise a toast or perform something could just book themselves in with my sister, Lou. Both of us took a turn – mine was the ‘produced on a night of no sleep so even if I could properly focus the content was pretty much ineligible’ version. His was the ‘had a quick think, scrawled something down and then delivered it off the cuff with no notes’ version. Damn him!
Ros was much better prepared and had all the classic baby stories, Colin mentions, embarrassing son-in-law jokes and proud mum moments. Cheeky produced something hilarious – a speech he hoped his brain would prepare as he was saying it. Katy, Lou and Jo also got up to share some words and they were of course all lovely. Who knew they were so loved – not me! Who also knew that Jo kept all the a’level photos she took of me modelling for her and had shared pictures of me as a 17 year old bride tasked to look as if she was ‘contemplating running away’ around the room. Awful! Thank goodness for Wilz and Julie who got up and sang an amazing, personalised version of ‘If not for you’ by Bob Dylan. Gorgeous.
Everyone loves a singalong…. don’t they?
Credit where credit is due – Ullapool was very patient and accepting with us. Not one person threw a shoe at us when we took our singalong out of the Frigate onto the streets of the small harbour town, even when it reached 2am! I’m sure we all thought we were doing harmonies (and to be fair, Wilz and Julie on the ukulele, Jon on his guitar and Cheeky can all definitely hold a tune) but it probably just sounded like what it really was – a group of drunk tourists shouting soundy-likey lyrics! It was a perfectly crazy end to a perfectly crazy day though.
Thank you Scotland, thank you friends and family and thank you to my chimps – that was a pretty awesome adventure to add to our list!